We face a simple choice between ecological survival and climate catastrophe.

If we are really concerned about our collective futures, we’d pursue one basic step. We would mandate a yearly and progressive reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG).

Increased solar and energy efficiency are the two basic and available tools for real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and beyond. We can cap by law and regulation, maximum greenhouse gas output. Start with 1% a year.

Building solar and increasing efficiency does not require a carbon tax or raising energy prices. Fossil fuel polluters are mandated to achieve annual reductions. They can reduce sales or use lower emission technologies. Their choice.

In the global market, zero-cost solar decreases in price and increases in efficiency. Coal, oil, and natural gas are increasingly unable to compete with solar and energy efficiency, even with fossil fuels ability to pollute for free. Month by month, fossil fuels are unable to compete with solar energy and efficiency. This will worsen in a GHG emissions-constrained market absent cost-effective solutions to burn fossil fuels with lesser GHG emissions.

Why mandated annual reductions matter?

It could be argued that a politically easier landing could be accomplished just by the necessary rapid tripling of solar installations and efficiency improvements. The market would do the rest. Fossil fuel producers would continue to pollute with only minor abatement but would be unable to compete.

The reality is that without hard-stop pollution mandates, such a transition would continue to be slower, and the polluters would take advantage of all opportunities to continue to pollute.

The right to pollute also amounts to global subsidies to lower fuel prices for fossil producers, as well as subsidizing costs for consumers and ignoring the consequences of ecological damage, as well as forgone consumption taxes. . According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), fossil fuel subsidies amount to an extraordinary 7 trillion dollars a year, or 7.1 percent of global GDP in 2022, with the expectation that they will rise to $8.2 trillion in 2030.

The 2022 subsidy reflects 18% explicit subsidies from undercharging for supply costs, and 82% implicit subsidies from undercharging for pollution damages and forgone consumption taxes.

Without an end to enormous fossil fuel subsidies and limits on GHG emissions, we will continue to permit and subsidize self-destructive climate action.

Just the facts of increasing GHG emissions

Although solar, wind, and hydro are rapidly increasing, fossil fuel use and GHG pollution, instead of declining, are also continuing to increase. Global cumulative emissions, according to Statistica, have risen from 4.86 gigatonnes (billion metric tonnes) of carbon dioxide equivalents, it 14.9 gigatons in 1970, to 19.48 gigatonnes in 1980, to 25.5 gigatonnes in 2000, to 37.55 gigatonnes at the end of 2023, and are still rising.

If we had prudently begun to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 1980, the world would be in a very different situation. But we did not. And we are facing the consequences. Things are getting worse at an increasing pace.

Common wisdom or popular sentiment suggests that plans by the major greenhouse gas polluters, led by the United States and China, are that a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 or 2060 means we are on the path towards some sort of acceptable climate.

Climate reality

Climate reality tells a different story. In November 2023, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) determined that the Paris Agreement was on track for a 2.5 to 2.9 degree Celsius temperature rise this century. This is far above the 1.5 degree centigrade limit to avoid a climate disaster.

The latest March 29, 2024 study, “Global Warming Acceleration,” by leading climate scientists.

James Hansen, Makiko Sato, and Pushker Kharecha find the speed of climate change accelerating from 2010-2023 compared to 1970 to 2010. They find a dramatic increase in global absorbed solar radiation (ASR) driven by a darkening earth, disappearing snow and melting ice. Disappearing snow and ice means less sunlight is reflected back into the atmosphere, leading to a marked increase in sea surface temperature (SST).

If climate change is accelerating, then only immediate and dramatic action for real reduction in green house gas pollution must be our guide for individual and global action. There are no global systematic plans for ending the age of fossil fuel pollution.

Globally, we continue to act as if we can have both the benefits and profits from our carbon pollution and our renewable resource development. The fact is that global carbon dioxide equivalent pollution continues to increase, now at over 38 billion tonnes annually.

There are aggressive steps being taken. For example,the Biden administration announced this January an updated road map for solar development to help meet Biden’s goal of a net-zero electric grid by 2035. The Biden administration is one of the vital global leaders in climate change. Now is the time to take the next steps for meeting the climate emergency and pursuing real GHG reduction globally.

The rapid growth of solar and energy efficiency are the available tools to allow a quick and economic reduction in fossil fuel and greenhouse gas pollution.

Alternatives to self-destruction

The enormous global expansion of solar energy is a place for us to start if we do not want to unleash catastrophic geophysical forces driving mass extinction, and social and economic collapse.

It is absolutely clear that we have the physical ability to very rapidly increase the global amount of solar. Globally, we have the ability to respond to the climate emergency to respond to the climate crisis as if our lives and the future of our civilization depend on it,because it does.

For the climate, the total number of solar panels and their cumulative output are what matter.

For example, one million residential roofs with only 15 kilowatts of solar each are equal to 15,000 megawatts of solar capacity. In a temperate climate zone, this is equal to generating about 1.3 million kilowatt hours per megawatt, for a total of 19.5 billion kilowatt hours of solar a year.

Instead of one million residential roofs, we can install solar on just 15,000 large, 120,000-square-foot industrial roofs that can supply about 1 megawatt of solar each. These roofs would also supply 19.5 billion kilowatt hours a year.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the average kilowatt hour in the U.S. electric system releases 86 pounds of carbon dioxide. Displacing 19.5 billion kilowatt hours of fossil fuel power by solar reduces 16.7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide.

Solar on roofs is not the only game in town. Agricultural land in the United States amounts to about 900 million acres. 6 acres of farmland per megawatt of agricultural solar means a potential of 150 million megawatts of solar, which dwarfs the existing 1.1 million megawatts total of utility scale electric generation in the U.S. Agricultural solar on just 6 million acres of farm land, or less than 1% of existing farm land, meets our energy needs. It’s important to understand that the capacity to install solar and energy storage on a small percentage of farmland, on roofs, over parking lots, in backyards, and on open land exceeds the total energy requirement by many orders of magnitude. We have myriad choices for a 100% efficient renewable energy system.

Solar is increasing, combined with energy storage at all scales, large and small, that allows solar energy to be electronically networked to act as virtual power plants (VPP) that have become ways of both responding ti peak electric loads and to reduce the needs for additional new HVDC transmission lines to move solar long distances.

What’s needed globally

What’s needed now is quickly tippling the already rapidly expanding pace of solar installations. This is substantial, but certainly within our grasp tripling for tripling global solar energy output by 2030. International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said, “This extraordinary surge in renewable generation capacity shows that renewables are the only technology available to rapidly scale up the energy transition aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, the data also serves as a telltale sign that progress is not moving fast enough to add the required... renewable power within the next seven years, in accordance with IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook 1.5°C Scenario.”

Solar expansion is underway. IRENA March 27, 2024 data found that in 2023, the 473 GW of renewables expansion was led by Asia with a 69% share (326 GW). This growth was driven by China, whose capacity increased by 63%, reaching 297.6 GW. But other regions, including most developing countries, lag far behind. Africa has reached a capacity of 62 gigawatts.

Even the once ultra-conservative International Energy Agency is optimistic that tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 is an achievable goal. Solar capacity additions have risen an average of 11% a year from 2015 to 2022. A slightly higher growth rate would put us on track to meet the 2030 global capacity target and have the necessary manufacturing capacity.


Collectively, the global expansion of solar must increase sufficiently to reach 2030 goals. This is clearly within our grasp, given international cooperation.

Continuing increases in solar and low-cost fuel-free power are predicted to slash coal generation. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that fossil fuel pollution still increases. Key is the willingness to reduce fossil fuel subsidies and mandate yearly reductions. Carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase despite all the chatter and talk about a net-zero future.

It’s long past time that we must squarely address carbon dioxide reductions, or we will find ourselves facing desperate climate peril and be forced to institute global geo-engineering schemes. This will mean, for example, pumping huge amounts of soot particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space from a continually operating fleet of large planes. We will live under constant volcanic clouds while the fossil fuel era continues. That’s madness.

We can instead choose to build a global ecological civilization based on ecological health, justice, freedom, and fairness.


1 International Monetary Fund. (n.d.). Why do we care about fossil fuel subsidies?
2 Statista. (n.d.). Annual carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions worldwide from 1940 to 2023.
3 Hansen, J., Sato, M., & Kharecha, P. (2024, March 29). Global Warming Acceleration: Hope vs Hopium.
4 International Energy Agency. (2024, March 27). Massive Expansion of Renewable Power Opens Door to Achieving Global Tripling Goal Set at COP28.